Surrounded by her loving family, Sonja Jeanne (Borreson) Gelow died Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, following complications from surgery at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa. Born July 10, 1937, Sonja was the eldest child to Alvin and Virginia Borreson. She grew up in Portland, OR., with her little sister, Bonnie, and brother, Keith. While on a blind date in her senior year of high school, Sonja met the love of her life; shortly after graduation, she married “so-handsome-in-uniform” Melvin E. Gelow. Sonja and Mel were married for 59 years, until his passing in 2014.
Mel and Sonja packed up their few possessions in 1961—along with two toddlers and pregnant with their third—and began a journey to California, where Mel began a career in the newspaper-distribution business for what is now The San Francisco Chronicle. As the mother of four active children and the wife of an entrepreneur, Sonja worked tirelessly to raise her children and help build the family businesses. She wore many hats, and she wore all of them well.
An avid follower of news channels, Sonja followed politics, sports and local news and would religiously begin each day with coffee and newspapers. Conversations typically began with the phrase, “Did you see in today’s paper…” Regular Sunday family meals, legendary parties, annual Gelow Family Wines harvest celebrations and trips to the family home in Graeagle, California, brought her pure joy. Sonja was an avid reader who often read two books simultaneously, an excellent cook and gardener. She enjoyed many trips with friends and family in the trusty Bounder RV.
As much as she enjoyed her travels, she always preferred her home, which she loved. Both Mel and Sonja were active members of the Napa Elks #832 and Napa Valley Country Club where they made life-long friends. After her children graduated from school, Sonja worked part-time for 17 years at Queen of the Valley Hospital and later volunteered regularly for many different charities.
Her spirited, strong will and support from family sustained her the last few years, as she struggled with frontotemporal dementia, a rare form of dementia that effects one’s thinking and behavior.
Sonja is survived by her four children, Mark, Jeff (Vicki), Diana (Mike) Cybulski, Julie (James) Jeffery, brother and sister-in-law Keith & Sandi Borreson; seven grandchildren, Jake (Tammy) Gelow, Ryan (Holly) Gelow, Chelsey Holdsworth (Lance), Kevin Jeffery, Kelli Cybulski, Craig Cybulski, Eric Jeffery; great-grandchildren, Landon and Alyssa Gelow and Charlotte, Noelle and Amelia Holdsworth, plus several nieces, nephews and cousins.
Sonja is preceded in death by her husband, Melvin Gelow, parents Alvin and Virginia, sister and brother-in-law Bonnie and Bud Gelow and daughter-in-law, Janet Lyle Gelow.
A memorial service celebrating and commemorating Sonja’s life with be held at 1 PM Feb. 16, at Tulocay Cemetery Funeral Home in Napa, CA. The family will hold a private burial service. Tributes to her life can be made to American Diabetes Association: diabetes.orgonate.
The Gelow family would like to express their deep appreciation to Dr. John Dermody and staff for their kindness, support and care.
Sonja was a no-nonsense woman who fiercely loved her family, cared deeply for friends and was happiest at home, cooking for family and close friends. She adored her grandchildren, who brought her pure joy and happiness.